On Fiction Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Rosie Šnajdr

On Fiction Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

Rosie Šnajdr

is an author of experimental fiction, with a primary interest in communication via narrative structure. She has a background in modernist Anglo-American literary criticism. She co-edits the Cambridge Literary Review (https://cambridgeliteraryreview.wordpress.com/)

cambridgeliteraryreview.wordpress.com

A final taster of the contents of CLR 11: Manifestos — now available to read online is Nick Makoha’s manifesto on ‘The Metic Experience’.
She teaches creative writing and literature at universities, currently at the University of Greenwich.

a-hypocritical-reader

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write fiction?

I was praised for writing a story when I was five. The teacher took it as part of a presentation at a teaching conference. I liked the idea that people would read something that I had written. It was about a girl who grew wings and went to the moon.

2. Who introduced you to fiction?

I was always a keen reader, but a teacher pressed additional classics on me from a young age. Indeed, a series of kind teachers took time out to make me additional reading lists which really helped me develop in a school that was otherwise a bit of a challenging environment for learning.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older writers?

My skull is an echo chamber, clanging about with the words and structures of works of earlier writers.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

It’s more of a weekly writing routine, given my other commitments. There are two and a half days I can give over to literary projects, editing and writing-related administration and I have to do my best with them. Less, if I’m teaching creative writing, but creative writing teaching can be really inspirational and life-choice affirming, so I don’t mind that.

5. What motivates you to write?

The satisfaction of building things that are, as much as possible, exactly how they should be. I guess it’s just a symptom of the affliction of perfectionism. Taking a concept, building a structure to express it, choosing the right material as content, and placing the bricks just so. Sometimes I think I prefer the short form mainly to provide more regular hits of the satisfaction of completion, though I do like working in miniature.

6. What is your work ethic?

It is ethical to work for the benefit of fellow humans. Screw capitalism.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

I fell in love with Ulysses at seventeen and have remained faithful ever since, barring some meaningful dalliances with other modernist and postmodernist authors.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

Isabel Waidner because she is making the experimental relevant again; and not just relevant, but powerful, by re-introducing it to its democratising social force. Coming up through reading modernism, as it was institutionalised in the academy, I’d forgotten that experimentalism was supposed to enact change upon the world. It had become like a crossword puzzle to me. I love crosswords but a lot (though not, I’d argue, all) or the purpose of experimentalism is humanistic, in the sense that it compels positive change in society. That’s why realism and the stifling normativity it concretises has always been my sworn life-long enemy.

9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?

I do other things. As an experimental writer who derives life-sustaining nutrients from food, I have to do other things.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

That would depend on what kind of writer they want to become. In all cases, I would suggest reading widely within related literature is essential. I also like the quotation from Arthur Quiller Couch, along the lines of ‘the ways of art are hard at the best, they will break you if you go unsustained by belief in what you are trying to do.’ Keep reminding yourself of what you are trying to do.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I am working on my second book of short stories, working title Adult Colouring Book. It contains explorations in concrete prose and represents my faltering attempts to begin to believe in literature as a force for social good, or, at least, normative interruption. ‘American Mustard’, about the stonemasons who built Ely Cathedral Lady Chapel and their freemason ‘inheritors’, had just come out in Egress 2. We Are Cosmonauts, which follows the flight of Yuri Gagarin and fictionalises his internal monologue in an attempt to show the difficulty of heroism, individual existence, propaganda, fact, and fiction existing in the same ‘space’. This has just been published as a limited edition pamphlet and free PDF by Hesterglock and the Aleph presses. You can get the free PDF here:

http://www.hesterglock.net/rosie-scaronnajdr—we-are-cosmonauts.html

Rosie Šnajdr – We Are Cosmonauts – [[[[ HP | PH | EW ]]]]

http://www.hesterglock.net

Rosie Šnajdr – We Are Cosmonauts available as a free PDF & then as a ltd. edition pamphlet of 21 copies (Feb 2019) a collaborative publishing project with The Aleph Jan 1: FREE PDF (download below)

Currently, I’m working on ‘Paperdolls’, a work that asks readers to explore intersectionality and prejudice through narrative structure.

My first book of short stories, A Hypocritical Reader (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2018), explores the failure adequately revolutionise/queer the short story and the stunted expectations that realist normativity has of the reader. It is available here:

https://www.dostoyevskywannabe.com/original/a_hypocritical_reader

A Hypocritical Reader – dostoyevskywannabe.com

http://www.dostoyevskywannabe.com

The Book ‘Splicing the Choose Your Own Adventure format, sci-fi, metafiction, absurdism and social critique, Rosie Šnajdr A Hypocritical Reader is experimental fiction at its most animated and innovative.This is the future literature we need but haven’t seen.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Alwyn Marriage

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

Alwyn Marriage

http://www.marriages.me.uk/alwyn 

Alwyn’s ten books include poetry, fiction and non-fiction. She has won a number of competitions and is very widely represented in magazines, anthologies and on-line. She has appeared at many literary festivals and other literary events and gives readings all over the world. Her latest books are Rapeseed (a novel) and In the image: portraits of mediaeval women (poetry collection).

Formerly a university philosophy lecturer and Director of two international literacy and literature NGOs, Alwyn is Managing Editor of Oversteps Books (www.overstepsbooks.com) and research fellow at Surrey University. Her blogs at <www.marriages.me.uk/alwyn/blog> cover, among other subjects, poetry, dance, visual art, publishing and travel.

The Interview

  1. What inspired you to write poetry?I have written all my life. My primary school head teacher called my parents in to see one of my poems when I was 6 or 7, and predicted that she would read books by me before she died. I have no idea whether she did or not!
  1. Who introduced you to poetry?Some wonderful person gave me a book of poems when I was four – it was as tall as I was and the poems were, I seem to remember, about fairies. I wasn’t particularly into fairies, but I loved the poetry and was passionately fond of the tall book. As a child and adolescent, I was also fed a diet of good hymns by the likes of Charles Wesley and George Herbert, and imagine that their control of form and content had some influence on me. My father frequently played word games with us, which fostered in me a love of the English language.
  1. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?I wrote nature poems through primary school then, when I went to a new secondary school and discovered the library, I was stunned to find that the Romantic poets had been writing similar things years ago. Obviously, my childish efforts were pathetic in comparison with theirs, but I suddenly found that I fitted into a long tradition.
  1. What is your daily writing routine?I write because I love it. There is no routine or discipline. If I’m working on something, I spend longer; if I’m not, I don’t. It is rare to not write anything in a day.
  1. What motivates you to write?Being attacked by new ideas, needing to understand something, fascination with words and forms.
  1. What is your work ethic?Even though my writing is so important to me, I try to make sure that I also give time to those nearest and dearest to me. Most of the time this is fine, but sometimes, particularly if I’m working on a new book, I have to remind myself that they need my time and attention, as well as my writing does.
  1. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?I suspect that a propensity to rhyme rooted itself deep when I was small. As an adult, I am careful to control the tendency; but if I need to rhyme for some reason, I find it easy. It has sometimes been harder to resist it. Much of my poetry is in free verse, but it was also liberating to discover half-rhyme.
    The two dominant poets that affected me in my late teens and early twenties were T S Eliot and e e cummings and as my own work developed I had to distance myself a little from their influence.
  1. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?’Today’ changes from day to day. I read widely and admire many contemporary poets. It’s great to have so many fine women poets now. I could name names, but I prefer to be surprised and thrilled with each new poem that appeals to me, whoever wrote it.
    As Managing Editor of Oversteps Books, I also have the privilege of ‘discovering’ new poets and bringing them to public notice.
  1. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?Because I’m me.
  1. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”All the normal stuff about extensive reading, of course. Experiment all the time, and don’t think you’ve arrived and can carry on writing what’s worked before. Then don’t put it off; just DO IT.
  1. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

    I’ve been putting together a couple of themed pamphlets recently, and I’ve got a large new collection of poems about women that I’m excited about and want to get published before too long. I’ve recently finished my second novel, for which I also need to find a publisher; and I’ve just been asked to write some non-fiction pieces for a new website. One of these will, in time, grow into a non-fiction book. My ten published books include poetry, fiction and non-fiction; and it seems that I’m going to continue jumping around from one to another. But poetry is my greatest love.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Elisa Matvejeva

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

Elisa

Elisa Matvejeva

is a contemporary poet and filmmaker currently residing in London, England. From her travels around the world, she has gained a unique voice and uses it to write her poems. Elisa has been writing since she could hold a pen and, with her mother’s encouragement, has made sure always to keep creating. With the publication of her first book, Elisa hopes to continue making more of both beautiful words and films. In her free time, she enjoys films, wine, and cuddling small animals.

She’s on Instagram as: @elisa.matvejeva

The Interview

  1. When and why did you begin to write poetry?

I have an obsession with words. I always have. I love painting pictures with words that leave you hanging on even past the end of the poem. I was six when I wrote my first poem about the pains of getting a flu jab. The next poem I wrote when I was 16 and I was in English class in high school. Both of these were nothing special – I dismissed poetry. I didn’t even read much of it until I entered university. Then I came across several books and thought to myself “hey, I can do that”. And so I did. I told all of my friends that I am going to write a full collection and I did. Partly, it was something that I had to prove to myself that I could do. Another part found solace in poetry – the concise and beautiful words and painting pictures.

  1. Who introduced you to poetry?

My mom did. I was born in a small town in Latvia and my mom had always been a bookworm, so she passed it on to me. I remember reading poems by Latvian poet Vilis Pludonis with her when I was about five years old. I loved the rhymes.

Then, when I was about 14, I discovered Whitman and T.S. Eliot, which opened me up to a whole new world. I remember being amazed at their craftsmanship with words. Thank you, mom.

  1. How aware were and are you of the dominating presence of older poets?

I’m definitely very aware of it! Ever since discovering twitter, I’ve noticed that most poets are a lot older than me, making me feel as if I don’t really fit into the community that well. I’m lovely, I promise! It’s just difficult to try and break through the assumptions those older and more established poets might have about me, a young woman who writes poetry.

  1. What is your daily writing routine?

I’m ashamed to say that currently I do not have one. I wake up whenever, rush to university or the odd freelance photography job, and then come home exhausted. I’m looking to change this routine very soon to get some time for the coming poetry collection. On days that I do manage to have a daily writing routine, it’s a lot different. I wake up around eight, make some coffee, and browse social media for some inspiration. That usually makes me very productive for the day.

  1. What motivates you to write?

I think to write, to create, is the most important thing. To express yourself. We all long to be understood and loved for that understanding. My greatest goal in life is to inspire others. I want someone to look at my photography, or poetry, or my films and just say to themselves (and hopefully others) “hey, I really want to make something now”. That, and the need to understand myself. My entire adult life has been spent in search for a certain degree of self sufficiency. I believe the way to self sufficiency is paved in gold and introspection. You have everything you could ever need – you just need to learn how to get it. That motivates me to write and be introspective.

  1. What is your work ethic?

I’m an extremely hard worker. If you give me a task, I will do it efficiently. That’s for writing as much as it is for doing laundry. I’ll do it! That being said, I do like to take my time when it comes to creative outlets, such as writing. I like to search for moments when I could be at my ultimate level of efficiency, which is usually on inspired days. There are often times where I don’t write for two weeks at a time and then suddenly churn out five poems in one sitting. I’m still learning how to manage that.

  1. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

One book that 100% influenced me and my writing was The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Her writing is so visual and vivid, it made me want to explore visuals through my writing as well. Later it was definitely The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats and Howl by Allen Ginsberg. I think the angsty voice that has now emerged in my later writing has definitely come from the likes of Ginsberg.

  1. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

I cannot shout about this book enough, but Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky With Exit Wounds has been such an inspiration to me and my work that I cannot express it enough. He’s just a wizard with words, I cannot help but be inspired by the way his mind works and paints pictures. Another writer I admire is Deborah Levy. Her book Hot Milk changed my life in so many ways! After reading Hot Milk, I discovered that I really wanted to write a novel someday. An honourable mention is Rachel Cusk’s Outline. What all of these people have in common is that they are excellent with their visuals. They focus on details that catch you off guard. I cannot get enough of that!

  1. Why do you write?

I think I addressed it earlier, but to write is the same as breathing to me. I cannot imagine myself as anything other than a writer. I started my first novel, at the age of five, about a witch. Let’s keep in mind, this was pre-Harry Potter, as I was too scared to watch it. It was late at night and way past my bedtime, but I got out of bed as if struck by lightning and just began to write. It was the most therapeutic thing, I decided to continue this further. And here I am. It’s just second nature.

  1. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

You are your own biggest enemy. There is nothing your mind cannot do, yet you keep yourself on the shore instead of sailing out into the ocean of opportunities. If you want something, go fucking get it, because no one’s going to give you anything for nothing. Be kind to yourself, but also be harsh. Don’t let your mind hold you back! That’s how you become a writer. You wrestle with yourself in the belly of the beast and emerge victorious. Only then do you sit down and write about the scars you earned and how they have healed.

  1. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

Currently, I’m working on my second poetry collection! Yay! I’m beyond excited to share this with the world, as it’s completely different from my poetry in Flowers I Should Have Thrown Away Yesterday. My voice is a lot clearer and almost determined to make things right. I’m not vulnerable and soft anymore – I’m ready to debate the ills of this world, such as human suffering and the meaning of love. It’s a lot darker, but also precise. I’m thinking about calling it Nursing Sin. It’s about the horrible things we each hold on to, despite their toxicity. Hence, we nurse the sin of holding on. We enjoy our own suffering; we thrive off it. I’m also shooting a film called Chasing and doing various photography for musicians, actors, models, and fellow writers!

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Jennie Osborne

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

Jennie Osborne

lives in South Devon. She is one of the organisers of Poetry Teignmouth and the Teignmouth Poetry Festival, gives workshops and readings around the South West, and runs a regular ‘Poetry Playtime’ group in Teignmouth.

How to be Naked, Jennie’s first collection, came out from Oversteps Books in 2010 and her latest collection, Colouring Outside the Lines again from Oversteps in Sept 2015. This collection includes First to Blink, which won first prize in the 2015 Kent and Sussex Poetry Competition, also The Habits of Free Electrons, a runner-up in the 2015 Mslexia Competition. Her poems also feature in many magazines and anthologies, most recently in The Book of Love and Loss (Belgrave Press) and Songs for the Unsung (Grey Hen Press). A pamphlet is ‘in the pipeline’, and she is working on a third full collection, which addresses our relationship with ‘the other’ including the global environment.

As well as being inspired by the countryside around her, Jennie is interested in the interface of poetry with art and music and finds collaboration with musicians and visual artists fruitful. She is a co-author of the collaborative book Poets, Painters and Printmakers 2012. Themes of time, memory and relationship, although often with an unexpected twist, underlie her work which she sums up as being about ‘this messy business of being human’.

Collections:
Colouring Outside the Lines, 2015. £8
and How to be Naked, 2010. £9 incl p&p
both from Oversteps Books

CD: Something about a Woman (avail from Jennie, via Moor Poets)

The Interview

  1. When and why did you start writing poetry?

I started writing as a fairly young child, in primary school, and enjoyed reading poetry too. I carried on through my teens, stopped at the onset of work and marriage. I started again in my early forties, when, looking for something outside the aforementioned work and marriage, I spotted an advert in the local adult ed programme for a poetry workshop run by Bob Devereux. I was living in Cornwall in those days. At that, I met members of a local poetry group – and there was no looking back. My interest in, and skill at poetry increased over the following years.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

It must have been at school. I remember a project where I compiled an anthology of poetry – presumably gleaned from books in the school library. My parents didn’t have any interest, although they were great readers and introduced me to the local library from an early age.

3. How aware are and were you of the dominating presence of older poets traditional and contemporary?

I suppose starting with secondary school and over the(non-writing) years I was aware of the traditional poets probably up to the Hughes/Heaney era. And once I started linking in to the poetry scene, I soon discovered the rich variety of amazing comtemporary poets.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t have one – it’s very erratic. I tend to write anywhere other than at home and often go to cafes or outdoors. I may not write for weeks and then have a productive burst.

5. What motivates you to write?

Well, that’s a mystery. I do quite often get prompted in workshops – then taking the poem in an original direction. I write a lot in collaboration with visual artists. I am very concerned about the environment and have written a number of successful poems prompted by encounters with animals, trees, etc. And of course the vagaries of my own life – the ‘messy business of being human’. I don’t find that it works for me to have an idea of what I intend a poem to be about, and often I’m quite surprised to find by the end what it is about. There’s a sense that the poem knows what it needs to be and I’m just facilitating this. Editing of course is a different matter, but it’s still about helping the poem to be its best self and not another poem at all – a bit like gardening, or child-rearing come to that.

6. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

Dylan Thomas I’m aware is an an influence – his use of language and the music of his writing – I can see that element in my writing now and in other contemporary poets I enjoy. Generally I think its the feeling for rhythm and sound patterns that stayed with me from much of my early reading.
I also remember being taken with the mystery and clarity combined of William Blake, that sense of poetry saying so much more than the sum of its words, again, this is something I aspire to.

7. Whom of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

I think Alice Oswald has to be my number one, for her musicality, her ability to speak in the voices of people and landscape – particularly in ‘Dart’.

8. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?

Interesting question – one answer would be – I write as well as doing lots of other things.
Another would be, I write as a form of creative expression because that’s the only avenue I have any skill at – would love to play an instrument well, and compose, and have dabbled, but I’m well aware I don’t have that ability, partly because I’m dyspraxic.
And another answer is – I write (poetry only, not prose) because, given the right prompt, poems come along and insist on writing themselves through me.

9. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

Another multi-layered question!
At its deepest – if you need to ask, you aren’t one! You become a writer by writing!
Assuming someone is writing, the next most important thing is to read – particularly the genre they wish to write, but more widely too. Read voraciously and intensively, noticing what writers do with language, what moves you, what doesn’t….
And then, join a writers group, to get critical feedback from your peers. It may take time to find one you are comfortable with. Learn not to be oversensitive, to accept comments as helpfully meant, to consider them carefully, to accept or not in the privacy of your own writing space.
Some writers, myself included find going to workshops useful, to give you that kernel of grit to make the oyster ie a prompt you would not have thought of to make your own. Others don’t respond to that. Experiment

10. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I’m afraid everything is in a hiatus due to preparation for the Teignmouth Poetry Festival (I am one of the organisers). In the autumn I was working on soundscapes with a view for setting up a performance group, a ‘word choir’ with a couple of other poets – that may be picked up again in a month or so. Also, I will start shaping my third collection, which will be centred around our relation to ‘the other’ in many different senses.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Brian Kirk

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

After The Fall

Brian Kirk

is a poet and short story writer from Dublin. He was selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series in 2013 and shortlisted for the Patrick Kavanagh Award in 2014 and 2015. His first poetry collection After The Fall was published by Salmon Poetry in 2017. His poem “Birthday” won the Listowel Writers’ Week Irish Poem of the Year at the An Post Irish Book Awards 2018. His novel for children The Rising Son was published in December 2015.

He was shortlisted twice for Hennessy Awards for fiction. Recent stories have appeared in The Lonely Crowd and online at Willesden Herald New Short Fiction, Fictive Dream and Cold Coffee Stand. His story Festival was longlisted for the Galley Beggar Press Short Story Prize 2017/8. His short fiction chapbook It’s Not Me, It’s You won the inaugural Southword Fiction Chapbook Competition and will be published in autumn 2019. He blogs at www.briankirkwriter.com.

The Interview

 

  1. What inspired you to write poetry?

 

I enjoyed poetry at school but didn’t actually begin to write until I had left school at nineteen. A lot of friends were in bands then and, as I was not musical, writing seemed to me to be my obvious artistic outlet. At the start I wrote easily, without much revision or too much thought. When you’re young you know no fear in many respects. It was only later when I studied English Literature in London at Birkbeck College that I became aware of the enormity of the undertaking and how much responsibility there is in being a poet or a writer. To say I was daunted is an understatement. I stopped writing altogether for a number of years after I graduated.

 

  1. Who introduced you to poetry?

 

It wasn’t any one individual. I think within my family there was always an interest in books and music particularly, and in nature also. I was the youngest of ten children, so I picked and chose from my older siblings’ interests. Aside from fables, Irish Myths and the Bible Old Testament stories, there was Enid Blyton of course. When I was older, I read the Beats and Kerouac, Kafka and Flann O’Brien as hand-me-downs from my older brother, Ciarán. Patrick Kavanagh was the main poetic influence at first. His voice seemed real and authentic, and he was also a poet who had only just died when I was young, so he was very much alive in the minds of people at the time. My father was station master in Inniskeen in the late 1950’s and would have known Kavanagh as he travelled between Dublin and his home town on many occasions. My mother didn’t like him much; she found him coarse. But she later admitted to admiring his poetry. I think I was impressed that my family had a connection to a poet, however slight that connection was.

 

In secondary school I had a very good English teacher, Larry McGuinness, who helped keep my interest in poetry alive. I remember enjoying Hopkins, Shelley, Keats and Donne as well as Kavanagh and my favourite, Yeats. At that stage I knew nothing at all about contemporary poets. That came later.

 

  1. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

 

As I said, the English syllabus at school was dominated by older and mainly dead poets. At the time I thought that was not unusual. I suppose I wasn’t thinking in terms of poets writing at the time. As I got older I became aware of Heaney, Muldoon, Durcan, Boland, and it was refreshing to learn that poetry was not simply a museum piece, but an ongoing journey, undertaken by new minds in each new generation. When I started writing I was only vaguely aware of the work of these Irish writers and was probably more influenced by American writers of the 50s and 60s or English writers like Betjeman and Larkin. I discovered Blake’s work via Yeats and the Beats, and he remains a favourite.

 

At college I read a large volume of poetry from Old English right up to the moderns. The highlights for me were Milton’s Paradise Lost and Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound. I loved, and still love the narrative capability of poetry, as much as its lyric qualities. I have always enjoy reading and writing formal poetry.

 

  1. What is your daily writing routine?

 

I work a three-day week to pay the bills so on my writing days I try to be as productive as possible. I also write short stories and novels so a lot depends on what my current project is. Poetry in recent years has been a main priority as I prepared my first collection, After The Fall, which was published by Salmon Poetry in November 2017. In the year before that I was writing new poems and working on compiling and editing the collection. I am a member of the Hibernian Poetry Workshop in Dublin and we meet once a month. There are some excellent poets and critics among our group, so I was able to try out new work with them before submitting to journals or competitions. I also have a regular reader in the poet, John Murphy, and he was instrumental in helping me decide on which poems to include in the collection. We swap work regularly for comment and his advice has helped shape my work over the years.

 

So, my routine is made up of a certain amount of new writing, new poems or stories, and a large amount of editing. I like to try to make room in my day for reading too, usually at the end of the day. I also tend to read a lot of poetry and stories and essays on my commute to and from work – smart phones have their uses. Some days are more productive than others, but I’ve learned to be easier on myself over the years. I do, however, get a bit anxious if a number of days pass by and I don’t get any new work done.

 

 

  1. What motivates you to write?

 

I think writers just write. Even though it can be very frustrating at times, there is a huge sense of achievement when a poem you’ve been working on comes together. There is that sense – after all the effort and revision – that the poem has just manifested itself. It’s peculiar and sometimes a little disconcerting. In my experience, every time I write the experience is slightly different, or I engage differently with the work. It makes me feel as if I’m the slowest learner in the world at times.

 

However, all that said, I seem to always find a way to write, no matter what my circumstances. When I studied English Literature in the late 80s early 90s, I used it as an excuse to avoid writing creatively for a time, and afterwards I was so overwhelmed by the canon that I stopped writing for a while altogether. But even then I knew I couldn’t stay away, although it took me some years after that to go back to writing. It was prose at first until I did a creative writing workshop with the poet and novelist, Dermot Bolger, about 15 years ago. Coming out of that I published my first poem. It just felt right and since then I’ve kept working, kept writing.

 

  1. What is your work ethic?

 

Over time I’ve learned to take my work seriously. When I took a decision some years back to move to a three-day week I did so knowing that I was in a privileged position in that I could give more time to writing. I therefore realised I had to take it seriously. I think it was on Jo Bell’s blog where I read how she kept a record of all the poems she sent out, where they were published or where rejected. This appealed to the administrator in me and I’ve been doing this for years now. I send poems to journals and anthologies and I also enter competitions and have had good success over the years. You learn to know what certain editors want and you learn to understand how your own work might fit with the thematic and formal concerns of certain journals.

 

I’m a firm believer in entering competitions. Generally these are judged blind, and if you manage to get on a longlist or shortlist it’s a good indicator that your work is of a high standard. I also believe in sending work out as much as possible. Once you get over the swathe of rejections that inevitably come back, you get good validation from regular publication and you also build up a reputation as a published poet. Both of these things are important when you go looking for a publisher for your collection.

 

 

 

  1. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

 

Poets like Kavanagh, Yeats and Ginsberg still influence me today in many ways. Each new poet you read generally brings something new to you as a writer. Yeats political phase has stayed with me as has Kavanagh’s use of nature and the everyday world. Ginsberg teaches the young poet to be fearless in how they approach poetry. I love the quality of argument in Donne still, the narrative scale of Milton, Hopkin’s delight in language and sound. Elliott, when I read him at college, became a huge influence also. I think as poets we’re learning all the time, from the canon, from other art forms, and from our peers. I think my love of formal poetry dates back to my early reading also.

 

 

  1. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

 

This list could be quite long. Paul Muldoon for his linguistic brilliance, Don Paterson for his formal dexterity, Ailbhe Darcy for her imaginative and technical ability. Also, Simon Armitage, Theo Dorgan, Sinead Morrissey, Eavan Boland, Michael Longley, Enda Wyley, Paula Meehan, Joshua Mehigan, Luke Kennard, Ben Mazer, John Murphy, Michael O’Loughlin and Peter Sirr. There are a crop of Irish poets writing at the moment in many different styles (including my fellow Hibernian Poets) who I’ve read in recent years and whose influence on me is also very strong. If I was to name one, I’d have to name them all.

 

  1. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?

 

I think I have no choice really. That might give the impression that it’s a chore or something I’m compelled to do. On the contrary, writing has become something much more than a thing that I happen to do for a certain number of hours each week. It has become my life. Everything I experience is experienced through the prism of creative composition. Memory and imagination are the twin engines of my poetic approach at the moment. I think I will always be writing something, poems, stories, plays, novels.

 

  1. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

 

I can only answer that from my own experience and I’m sure there are other, and probably more direct, routes to becoming a writer than the one I’ve taken. I spent a lot of time avoiding writing when I was in my twenties and early thirties. My best advice is to just write, maybe join a group which will give you some structure and a supportive audience. Be prepared for criticism and learn how to take it in the right manner. Be prepared for rejection too. A lot of rejection. It’s part of being a published writer that you have to submit your work to editors or judges. Inevitably, at the start of your career, you will get a lot of rejections, but over time these will decrease as your work improves. As I said earlier, I’m a slow learner, but I can see improvement in my poetry over the years and that’s gratifying. You need to appreciate that for most of us success (for want of a better word) in writing is a long game, so you keep on working on your latest project or poem and let the ones you sent out either come back or find a home. When I was starting out there were some great online resources to help me as a writer: the poet, Kate Dempsey’s blog, Emerging Writer, was brilliant for giving up to date information on submission opportunities. Angela Carr’s blog, A Dreaming Skin, is an excellent resource for writers. She has recently posted a superb piece aimed at beginners on submitting to journals and competitions which includes all you need to know on the subject right now.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

 

Having taken a short break from writing poems after the publication of my first collection in late 2017, I’m happy to say I’m writing new poems again and working towards a second collection. I’m also preparing a collection of short stories with my mentor, Dermot Bolger, which should be ready later this year when I’ll be seeking a publisher. My chapbook featuring three of the stories, It’s Not Me, It’s You was a winner of the Southword Fiction Chapbook Competition this year and will be published in Autumn 2019. I also have two novels underway, but both are at an early stage of development. So, plenty of work to keep me going over the next couple of years!

 

 

 

 

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Austin Davis

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

Austin Davis

is a poet, spoken word artist, and student activist currently studying Creative Writing at ASU. Austin’s writing has been widely published in dozens of literary journals and magazines including Pif Magazine, After the Pause, Soft Cartel, Philosophical Idiot, and Collective Unrest. Austin’s first two books, Cloudy Days, Still Nights and Second Civil War were both published by Moran Press in 2018.

@Austin_Davis17

https://austindavispoetry.weebly.com/

The Interview

1. When and why did you begin to write?

I’ve been writing for a good majority of my life. When I was a little kid I used to write stories and make my own chapbooks out of construction paper and staple them together and hand them out to my family. When I was around 13, I started to get more serious about my work, and I began to write poetry every day. I wrote so much shitty poetry in my early years, but I’m glad I started when I did.

I’m a very emotional person, and I think that’s the biggest reason I started writing poetry. I feel things very deeply and I’ve been told I can be overly empathetic. I think I was really drawn to poetry because it was the only way I could cope with being so sensitive in a world that teaches us we shouldn’t feel things so deeply.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My Dad is a filmmaker, and although he didn’t technically introduce me to poetry, he definitely introduced me to the arts and writing and books which was what allowed my love for reading and writing to begin and grow. I also had many amazing teachers throughout my childhood and into high school who completely supported my dreams and passion for poetry and encouraged me to pursue writing.

3. How aware were and are you of the dominating presence of older poets?

I think I’ve always been pretty aware of the dominating presence of older poets, although, now I believe many of my peers who are regarded as younger poets are beginning to receive more attention. My biggest problem with the dominance of older poets is how they’re usually the only poets kids encounter in school. Sure, the older poets are fantastic to study, but there are also so many more amazing writers out there that kids would definitely be able to connect with.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I try to follow a daily writing routine that’s relatively consistent. I keep my journal with me throughout the day, and when inspiration strikes I stop to write. Everyday I try to read as much as I can. I read in the morning, at lunch, before bed, and whenever I can throughout the day. I’m a college student at ASU, and although it’s probably not the best routine, I usually write poetry during my classes, when it doesn’t affect my schoolwork. I also always take time at night to write and edit poetry before going to sleep. That’s probably the most consistent part of my writing routine.

5. What motivates you to write?

I really want to help people with my writing. I’ve always been motivated by the idea that my writing might be able to make a difference in people’s lives. I want to write something that makes someone see the world a little differently, something that makes someone know they aren’t alone in what they’re feeling, something that helps change the world.

6. What is your work ethic?

As I’ve gotten older and more mature, my work ethic has become more and more solidified. Besides my family, my friends, and my girlfriend, I try to make my writing my highest priority.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

I read a lot of Billy Collins’ writing when I was younger. I think the biggest stylistic tactic I learned from Collins’ writing was how to incorporate a surprise into the end of my poems. My favorite writer is Ray Bradbury, who taught me numerous things about the art of writing, but above all, he showed me that writing should be joyous.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

I try to read a lot of writers from the indie scene, along with many writers who are more recognized. I really admire all my of the authors at Moran Press, including Stephen Moran, Gabriel Ricard, Scott Wozniak, Shelby Kent-Stewart, and L.M. Bryski, because of how dedicated they are to their craft. I also think Kaveh Akbar is a genius and I love to read work by Hanif Abdurraqib, Terrance Hayes, and Natalie Diaz, among many others.

9. Why do you write?

Writing is something I have to do, like eating or sleeping. I’m always observing the world around me and making connections, and that’s really what poetry is all about. I get really obsessed with ideas and images and I have to put them down on paper. I think it’s also very therapeutic for me, and I believe it’s my responsibility an artist as to use my writing to try and make a difference in the world.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

In my opinion, everyone has the ability to become a writer. You don’t have to have a college degree or years of training, although it’s definitely helpful to never stop trying to learn more. You really just have to be an observer of the world around you, passionate about your art, and extremely dedicated. You have to bring out the creative child everyone has inside them somewhere and read as much as you can. Hand that child the pen and see what happens.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I recently finished a new chapbook of poetry and I’m currently working on my next full length collection. I’m also working on an album of spoken word poetry and I’m looking for jazz musicians to collaborate with me on it.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Carol Parris Krauss

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

CAROL DID NOT WANT A GRAPHIC

Carol Parris Krauss

Mother.Teacher. Poet. Lives in the Tidewater ​region of Virginia. Her work is distinctly Southern with a strong sense of time and place. This high school English teacher is a watcher and is not afraid to tackle current issues and concerns. She teaches English at Lakeland High. In her free time she enjoys cats and college football. She is a Clemson University graduate. Her work can be found in online and print magazines such as Storysouth, Eunoia Review, The South Carolina Review

https://www.carolparriskrausspoet.com/

The Interview

1. When and why did you begin to write poetry?

I began to write poetry in high school. Mind you, it was not very good. I was never an articulate speaker, but I had a plethora of ideas and thoughts bouncing around in my head giving me a migraine…so I began to write.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I can not pinpoint any one person who introduced me to poetry. As an adult, I work shopped at The Alsop Review’s Gazebo and I certainly learned a lot at the shark tank from some fine poets such as Kelli Russell Agodon, Christine Potter, Kay Day, Patricia Fargnoli, Robert Schechter, and many others.

3. How aware were and are you of the dominating presence of older poets?

HaHa, since I am almost 60 years old, I am very aware of older poets.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I am a full-time high school English teacher, so my writing routine is similar to traffic on I-95. A lot of stop and go.

5. What motivates you to write?

I seem to gets sparks from nature, even when the poem has absolutely nothing to do with flora or fauna, there will almost always be a plant, flower, fruit, or animal in my work.

6. What is your work ethic?

I am a hard worker and rather prolific. I have a four season room as my home office, and I am pretty religious about getting up early and working in my bubble surrounded my nature. Sometimes all those windows help, and other times, they are a bit distracting.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

No answer:(

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

I love Valerie Nieman, Kim Addonizio(I recently took her online class), Kelly Russell Agodon, Joy Harjo, Patricia Smith, Cobby Eckermann, January O’Neill, Martha Silano, and Dorianne Laux….humh, –all women:) I love their voice, their courage, their tenacity, and their ability to express these strengths in their work.

9. Why do you write?

Because I need to write, just as I need to eat and breathe. It’s a piece of who I am and vital to my daily existence. Plus, I am still not very articulate.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
I first became a reader.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I have just finished a chapbook and am looking for a home for my baby.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Michael Prihoda

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

Michael Prihoda

is a poet and editor, born and living in the Midwest. He has published two chapbooks and eight full-length collections of poetry, with another forthcoming in 2019. He has a blog to share his typewriter poetry. A full list of his creative publications appears here publications

He is the founding/managing editor of After the Pause (an online literary journal of experimental poetry, fiction, and artwork) as well as its small press imprint a…p press. In addition, he runs the After the Pause Review of Books.

He would love to hear from you:

You can find him elsewhere at:

Twitter: @michaelprihoda

Facebook: facebook.com/michaelprihoda

The Interview

1. When and why did you start writing poetry?

I started writing poetry in college but I began writing fiction well before that while I was in high school. I think I began as a means of self-discovery, of gripping and coming-to-terms with who I was and who I wanted to be and how I saw the world. It was therapy and self-discovery. Now, I see poetry as a vehicle of philosophy, an avenue through which to draw back a curtain to show an audience only things language can display and explore. For all that the world sways digital, there’s magic in paper pages, in what remains possible through the agglutination of words and phrases in both physical and metaphysical ways.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Literature was baked into my childhood. My earliest memories are of learning to read, specifically the first book I ever read solo: See the Yak Yak. I loved books of all kinds through school, was more of a book locust than just a book worm, and I believe what truly cemented the power of books in me at a young age was being read to by both my parents, not just as a toddler, but probably up until middle school. I would sit on the floor and play with Lego or do a puzzle and my parents would read classics like Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, The Gammage Cup, The Chronicles of Narnia. While my tastes have danced through different genres as I’ve grown up and been exposed to more and had a variety of adult experiences, I’ve remained obsessed with literature and read anything I can get my hands on that sparks that special something inside the literary chunk of my brain.

3. How aware are and were you of the dominating presence of older poets traditional and contemporary?

Aware, but not willing to let that detract from my passion to pursue poetry. I also think that is starting to change. Poetry is being fully embraced by younger generations and I’ve seen poets achieve remarkable levels of success and exposure in their 20s and 30s. Poetry in America isn’t stuffy, archaic, and dying with some last cohort of old white American men who were renowned for their 20th century contributions. Poetry feels incredibly diverse and exciting and I think youth are driving the movement.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I have honestly never kept a regular routine for the actual writing I do. Writing has always been contained to my spare time as I have a full-time job that is separate from my creative pursuits. I write sporadically, often in bursts, and will sometimes go weeks without writing a thing that is creatively productive. However, I have oriented myself toward the world in such a way as to always be a consumer and processer of information and literature. I see the potentiality for poems and stories everywhere and I make an effort to jot down ideas or phrases that I believe might grow into something more. My writing brain is always on, whether or not I do any actual creative writing in a day.

5. What motivates you to write?

I’m motivated by my experiences. I feel the constant urge to create based on what I see in the world around me and my emotional response to it. Sometimes that’s in the form of very short poetry, sometimes it becomes longer stories but I feel that the connective thread tying all my work together is a disorientation that I feel and see in the world around me between what this life is supposed to be or could be and what this wreckage ends up being for so many of us. There’s a line in one of Jeff Vandermeer’s books that runs through my head almost daily that (apologies to Jeff if this isn’t exact), “We are vessels filled with light. Broken vessels, broken light. But vessels nonetheless.” I’m another broken vessel filled with my own kind of broken light, hoping that I might share that light with people out there for the moments their light feels weak.

6. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

What always catches my attention most, and what always has since I was very young, is when an author is able to craft a compelling world, one that could only come from that person’s brain. Or if in poetry or realist fiction, I look for a compelling voice, something that sounds and feels unique, lives and breathes on its own terms and is unapologetic about doing things differently or taking risks in the approach and execution. Of course I am influenced by myriad writers who have come before me, as are all authors, but the great ones take their influences and produce some new tonic. I would hardly call myself a great writer, but that is what I try to do with my poetry and my fiction, having attempted to distill and absorb as much as I can from the writers I most admire: bloom something into existence that could not have come from anyone but myself.

6.1. Which older writers “spark that special something inside the literary chunk of (your) brain.”?

Non-exhaustive yet comprehensive of who I think of as particularly special: Don DeLillo, Kurt Vonnegut, David Foster Wallace, Jeff Vandermeer, Lydia Davis, Kelly Link, Rae Armantrout, Claudia Rankine.

6.2. Why are they special?

Each brings something unique to the literary landscape and is wholly an individual stylist. DeLillo is perhaps the most concise writer I’ve ever encountered, not necessarily in brevity of writing, but in the meaningful usage of sentences. Each feels weighty and philosophical. Vonnegut is the original fabulist, speculative before that became a genre. Foster Wallace practically invented a new dictionary to write Infinite Jest and it is some of the most compelling prose I’ve ever seen. Vandermeer is inventive and able to morph his style into myriad genres while never losing his flair for the strange and unfamiliar. Davis is perhaps the best writer of realist short fiction, pared back and brimming with constrained emotion. Link is an incredible modern fabulist, marrying wild concepts with deeply human ambitions and themes. Armantrout’s poetry is so sparse yet packed to exploding with meaning and societal references. And Rankine is a standard-bearer in creating literature that strives to impact the racial conversation our country needs to have.

7.  Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?

Writing feels like an activity that is necessary for my mind to feel as if I’m living a valuable life and contributing in the ways that I have been equipped to contribute to the world. Similar to spending time with my favorite people or going to work at the education nonprofit where I spend my days, it is a life-giving thing. I’ve done plenty of things in life that ended up not feeling useful or valuable. But I’ve never sat down to write and gotten up again without thinking I had just done something deeply meaningful and valuable, whether or not what I wrote in that instance ever sees the light of day.

8. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

I believe becoming a writer begins with becoming a serious, avid reader. You learn so much about the writing craft through reading, and here I don’t just mean serious, classical literature. Anything applies. But I don’t think anyone can call themselves a writer unless they’ve put in the legwork being a reader. Secondly, you have to be okay with failing and here I don’t even mean rejection. Of course that will come. But rejection isn’t even close to the first obstacle writers will face. You have to be okay with writing things that are pure trash, that just aren’t good, that are so deeply flawed it would be embarrassing to show them to anyone else. The quickest way to become a good writer is to practice the art of writing and to become good will require writing a lot of bad along the way. I have an untold number of stories, poems, and novels that are bad and will never be published and will never to be shown to another soul but I had to write them in order to hone my craft, my voice, my style, to understand the intricacies of writing and the process that I would have to use to create something meaningful and valuable and, ultimately, publishable.

9. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

The major project I’m working on is a manuscript of poems that has been a result of reading Guantanamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who was unfairly detained for over a decade and never charged with a crime. His diary is gripping and became the inspiration for a series of poems that also owe a debt of gratitude to the books The New Jim Crow and The History of White People. The poems grapple with how white supremacy has infiltrated everything about the United States and the experience of living and working in this country and how our country has abused and continues to abuse its power, especially against minorities. In the case of Mohamedou, the long arm of the United States stretched into Africa to take him from his homeland, away from his family, with no actual basis. As if the way my country persecutes some of its own citizens wasn’t enough. I often find injustice a trigger for my poems and this project has been an experience in attempting to find a foothold on the side of human dignity as I desire and work toward a world of actual equity.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Austin Smith

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

Austin Smith

grew up on a family dairy farm in northwestern Illinois. He received a BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an MA from the University of California-Davis, and an MFA from the University of Virginia. Most recently he was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in fiction at Stanford University, where he is currently a Jones Lecturer. He has published three poetry chapbooks: In the Silence of the Migrated Birds; Wheat and Distance; Instructions for How to Put an Old Horse Down; and one full-length collection, Almanac, which was chosen by Paul Muldoon for the Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets. His last collection, Flyover Country, was published by Princeton in Fall 2018. Austin’s poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry Magazine, Yale Review, Sewanee Review, Ploughshares, New England Review, Poetry East, ZYZZYVA, Pleiades, Virginia Quarterly Review, Asheville Poetry Review, and Cortland Review, amongst others. His stories have appeared or will appear in Harper’s, Glimmer Train, Kenyon Review, EPOCH, Sewanee Review, Threepenny Review, Fiction and Narrative Magazine. He was the recipient of the 2015 Narrative Prize for his short story, “The Halverson Brothers,” and an NEA Fellowship in Prose for FY 2018. He is currently a Jones Lecturer at Stanford University, where he teaches courses in poetry, fiction, environmental literature and documentary journalism. He lives in Oakland.

http://www.austinrobertsmith.com/

The Interview

  1. When and why did you begin to write poetry?

I started writing poems quite young because my father is a poet, along with being a dairy farmer. Some nights he would come in from the barn, clean up, and we’d go into town to hear him read poems at the local art museum. Glancing down the page, I see that this answer I’m giving can apply to the second question, as well, in that it was certainly my father who introduced me to poetry, not only through his readings, but through the collections on my parents’ shelves. From a young age I felt a particular pleasure in looking at a poem, even, I think, before really reading them. The shape of the poem on the page, the prevalence of white space, the way the lines broke on the right margin like surf. It appealed to me immediately. I still remember distinctly the first line I wrote: “The fire is burning hot.” I was kneeling in front of the fire (of course). Something had changed: I’d gone from hearing my father read poems to trying to make a poem myself. I must have been twelve or so. I still have the notebook, labelled “Poetrey” (sic), various marks in the corners of the pages, some lost order that I was already putting the poems in. As to why I began to write poetry, that’s more mysterious. Of course, I was following my father (my favorite poem on this score is Heaney’s “Digging”), but at the same time, I was striking out on my own, trying to speak of the same place and the same livelihood in a different way.

2. How aware were and are you of the dominating presence of older poets?

Again. I think I touch on this above, but I can say more. I wouldn’t say that I felt that older poets were dominating presences. The poets who meant the most to me were the poets who meant the most to my father: Gary Snyder, Wendell Berry, W.S. Merwin, Donald Hall, Jane Kenyon, Forrest Gander, etc. Actually, my father and I have met and/or corresponded with many of these poets. I met Snyder when he came to Freeport, IL to give a reading, and visited us on the farm. My Dad and I have both corresponded with Berry, and I’ve corresponded with Merwin. We both know Forrest. The point being, it was clear to me early on that being a poet was about more than writing poems. It was a whole life, a way of being in the world. It had a lot to do with friendship, with the simple pleasures of sharing a meal and some drinks, trying to say something for the earth and our presence upon it. In other words, it struck me that to be a poet was to take up a kind of moral calling. So rather than their presence being dominating, I felt that a kind of gauntlet had been laid down that I better walk if I was going to call myself a poet. Now, whether I’ve actually managed to walk it is another matter, that I can’t speak to.

3. What is your daily writing routine?

Right now my routine is waking up, trying to write, realizing I have to get my shit together and drive an hour to school, and daydreaming about what I would have written had I been able to stay home. I’m teaching a lot at the moment so I’m hardly writing at all. Certainly no poems. An occasional short story. Anyway, when things are calmer I write in the mornings. After noon I’m kind of worthless. Sometimes I’ll work on poems at night: they seem to require less attention than fiction does. What I mean by that is that poems seem to exercise a different part of the brain. I think it’s actually best to be a little tired, a little distracted, when working on a poem. I don’t like to bear down on them too much, or exert too much control, whereas, with fiction, it’s quite a bit different.

4. What motivates you to write?

I don’t really know anymore. Actually, I’m concerned that I’m losing the will to write. I used to write so much that it bordered on obsessive-compulsive behaviour. I have, in a file cabinet at home, approximately 1700 poems. I don’t write like that anymore. I don’t feel the pull to write about everything like I once did. I used to have to write in order to feel that I had experienced something. In some ways I’m happier, not writing all the time, but when one has identified oneself as a writer, to not write is a terrifying thing. These days, what motivates me to write is the thought of sharing the work with a half dozen or so people (my parents, my brothers, several good friends). I’ve pretty much given up on the publishing world, selling a novel, going on book tours, all that bullshit. I’m more or less writing letters to people I love, only they’re in the form of poems and stories.

5. What is your work ethic?

Well, again, it used to be much stronger! I’ll say this, though: I work hard, harder than anyone I’ve ever met. I don’t say that to brag. I’m actually not all that proud of it. It comes, probably, from having grown up on a dairy farm, and watching my dad get up every single morning at 3:30 for thirty years without a single day off. I approach writing that way. I had a pretty woeful time in graduate school because I encountered poets who don’t think of writing in that way, and I judged them, thinking they were lazy, or fake. The truth is, they were just working differently. Anyway, I like that phrase, “work ethic.” It really is an ethics of work. For me, the ethics of work is the ethics of dairy farming. For someone else, the ethics of work may be very different. Who am I to judge them? I just grew up in a particular world that has guided the way I approach my work. And so I am always reading, always writing or trying to write, always bearing down on one page or another, either mine or someone else’s.

6. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

Haha, hmm. Well, I don’t admire too many. Hardly any fiction, most of it strikes me as absolutely inane bullshit that is only getting published because it might sell books. Only a few poets. Maurice Manning, for how he has blent his work and his life in Kentucky. Joanna Klink, whose poems strike me as truly vital and consequential. Ilya Kaminsky: I trust and admire his patience and his passion. My friend Nate Klug, whose poems are as perfect and precious as diamonds. Yea, that’s about it.

7. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

Read. Read until you find writers who make you so envious that you would die to write like them. Then try to write like them. Try to write like so many of them for so long that you eventually write like yourself.

8. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

Oh there are so many. I’m like Coleridge in this. I have a thousand ideas and hardly any of them ever come to fruition. I’m experimenting with several different novels, trying to get one to click and carry me forward. One is about the appearance of the Virgin Mary to a community of beleaguered farmers in the midst of the Farm Crisis of the 1980s (but it’s a hoax perpetrated by the mother of the boy who sees her). Another novel is about a young woman who marries into a dairy farming family and, over the course of several decades, tries to get to the bottom of a dark family secret. Another novel is narrated from the perspective of a farmhouse. There’s a linked story collection called BROOD XIII, following generations of a farm family, jumping every seventeen years with the emergence of the Northwestern Illinois brood of periodical cicadas. My third poetry collection will be called ALL THY TRIBE after a line of Keats’s. I’m working on a memoir about growing up on a farm, as well as a collection of essays oriented around specific substances (“Milk,” “Blood,” “Grain,” “Manure,” etc.). And I have a short story collection finished, which the NYC editors called “quiet,” which I’ll probably just self-publish online. Again, I don’t really care that much anymore about publishing, I just want to keep writing and sharing my work with the people in my life who matter most to me.